Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Roses by Leila Meacham

Roses, by Leila Meacham
2010, 609 pages

Roses follows the Toliver, Warwick, and Dumont families in Howbutker, Texas, as Mary Toliver and Percy Warwick fall in love yet evade each other, and their families live with the consequences.  The book flashes back and forth from the past to the present, telling the stories of Mary, Percy, and Mary's great-niece Rachel, as the struggle of choosing between land and love is repeated across generations.
She lowered her eyes briefly, fatigue clearly evident in their sepia-tinged folds. When she raised them again, her gaze was soft with affection. "Amos, dear, you came into our lives when our stories were done. You have known us at our best, when all our sad and tragic deeds were behind us and we were living with their consequences. Well, I want to spare Rachel from making the same mistakes I made, and suffering the same, inevitable, consequences. I don't intend to leave her under the Toliver curse." (p7)
The cover of this book is what initially caught my attention. I wasn't sure whether to be intrigued or skeptical of the (literally) florid cover of a book that promised a family saga spanning three generations. After a rocky start, I eventually ended up really enjoying Roses.

When I first picked up the book, I was completely put off by it. I had a hard time keeping track of all the names being thrown at me in the beginning, and wasn't initially interested by the plot. I put the book down in frustration after 20 pages, but when I picked it up again a week later I was hooked.

I think my initial lack of interest was due to the way the novel starts out in the present and then goes back into the past to explain the current events. I don't normally have a problem with this kind of narrative, but in this case I didn't really become invested in the plot until I reached the first flashback.

That being said, despite the rocky beginning, once I got to the first flashback, I quickly became invested in the story and the main characters. From that point onward, the book was a very satisfying and enjoyable read. The story is interesting and doesn't drag. Although I didn't quite buy into some of the plot twists, I still enjoyed reading about the journey these families take over the course of two world wars and three generations.

I really enjoyed the characters of Mary Toliver, Percy Warwick, and Ollie Dumont -- all descendants of the founding families of Howbutker. I thought that these characters were well developed and interesting to read about. However, many of the supporting characters were not as well characterized, and I never really became as invested in the subsequent generations.

I also think this book would have really benefited from a character list/family tree at the beginning, because I had a hard time remembering all of the characters and who was related to whom until I was well into the book. This was partially due the the flashback format, as I was introduced to a number of characters in the present well before I learned who they were via the flashbacks.

This is a hard review to write, because while there were elements of the book that I found frustrating, overall it was a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable read. I'd probably rank it as a really good family saga, and if you enjoy intergenerational stories this one will definitely not disappoint.


  1. I always find books I have mixed feelings about so hard to review! But I'm glad that this was worth your time overall - especially as it's on the long side :P

  2. This is the 2nd time today I've seen Roses suggested. Now I'm curious. I rather like Family sagas myself.

  3. Roses was reviewed last Sunday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and they gave it 4 out of 5 stars, I think. I want to read it because I'm new to Texas and it takes place in East Texas, which has more the flavor of the South. I found it at Barnes & Noble but didn't want to pay full price. Got a coupon yesterday from Borders, but they were sold out (11 copies). I don't want to get it at the library because I'm not sure if I can read it in the allotted time. Thanks for the review. Most on Amazon were also pretty good, so I will eventually buy it.

  4. You have gotten an award for being cup-cake sweet from my blog:

  5. I don't usually go for these "family saga" type books, but it really depends on the writing style. I'll keep this one in mind if I ever feel the urge to read this type of novel. Great, thorough review!

    Une Parole

  6. I'm a sucker for a good family saga, and I hope I enjoy this one. It's been waiting patiently on my shelf for a little bit. I think character lists are always helpful when there are a lot of people to remember. Glad to hear you enjoyed it overall, and thanks for letting us know the beginning might be a little difficult.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  7. The cover is an eye-catcher but it does make you wonder what you're getting into! This one's on it's way to me; can't wait.

  8. The cover is beautiful.
    Good for you that you stuck with it and wound up enjoying the book, great review.

  9. I enjoyed your review. I bought this book recently, and I fell in love with the cover. Thanks for the warning that I will probabably need to stick it out in the beginning. I always appreciate that warning.

  10. Thank you for an honest review - I have this book coming (it's in the mail) as a potential book club selection. I was nervous about the 600 pages, we usually keep to 350. I will read it but you have confirmed my initial thought for a BC selection.